Advanced talks have been conducted recently in preparation for a summit conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Abbas in Moscow this fall, according to the daily Yediot Aharonot. The paper reported on Monday that both PA and Israeli officials have confirmed that the summit is scheduled to take place in October or shortly thereafter, under the auspices of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abbas has personally expressed his willingness, in principle, to partake in a Moscow summit. However, according to Yediot, the PA Chairman still insists that Israel first commit to freezing settlement construction and carry out the fourth phase of terrorist prisoners release which was halted when Secretary of State Kerry’s peace initiative collapsed in 2015. Abbas also insists on setting a specific date for the end of negotiations and for reaching a final agreement.
Political sources in Jerusalem have told Yediot that when Netanyahu and Putin spoke on the phone last week, the summit plan was part of their discussion. But they stress that the summit idea at this point is “mere speculation, it’s too soon.” Still, the same sources say Netanyahu is willing to meet with Abbas directly any time.
On Wednesday, August 17, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, discussed prospects for advancing PA-Israel peace talks with Abbas in Amman, and delivered a personal message from Putin to Abbas. Since then, Bogdanov has met twice with the head of the PA mission in Moscow Faed Mustafa and with Israeli ambassador Zvi Hefetz. One of Bogdanov’s meetings with Hefetz was on August 24, the day of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.
Secretary of State John Kerry met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Saturday in another attempt to keep the moribund “peace process ” alive between Israel and the PA.
The two men “discussed regional challenges and constructive ideas for the way forward to support our shared goal of a two state solution,” according to a statement issued by State Dept. spokesperson John Kirby.
“Secretary Kerry stressed the United States’ commitment to this issue, and they agreed on the importance of continuing to work with key partners to advance the prospects for peace while opposing all efforts that would undermine that goal.”
The meeting was held against the backdrop of a tense situation in which the Paris government is trying to find a way to prevent radical Islamic terrorism from further metastasizing in the country.
Last week two Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists ritually slaughtered a Catholic priest in Normandy on the altar of his own church as he was celebrating mass, forcing a fellow priest to film the entire gruesome process as they cut the elderly priest’s throat. The second priest is in critical condition. Both terrorists were killed.
Mohammad Karabila, a Muslim leader in northern France, said on Saturday the community would not prepare an Islamic funeral for one of the murderers, Adel Kermiche.
Muslim leaders in northern France refused to dishonor Islam with such a person, French media reported. The Muslim community supported the decision, refusing to attend the preparation of the body or burial and insisting the terrorist was not part of the Muslim community.
Muslim and Christian groups did, however, hold vigils for his elderly victim, according to Breitbart. A regional Muslim council also planned a brotherhood march in the southeastern city of Lyon.
Day One of the Democratic National Convention began with utter chaos in the wake of a scandal over the revelation that the party’s leadership had tilted the primary elections in favor of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton against her contender, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
But the ink on the resignation letter of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was barely dry before Hillary Clinton hired her as a “surrogate” national chairwoman to lead her presidential campaign — in effect, promoting her for her loyalty, corruption notwithstanding.
Speeches by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, First Lady Michelle Obama and then “rock star” runner-up candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont helped defuse some of the tension, but there was still plenty of bitter energy to spare.
The house was packed to the rafters for the Sanders speech, with thousands of signs — ironically, in the colors of the Israeli flag — waving frantically with slogans like, “Stronger Together” and “A Future to Believe In.”
The entire hall was on its feet as Sanders walked to the podium, and the cheers shook the building for at least five full minutes, with the former candidate repeatedly trying to begin his speech, only to give up laughing. “Thank you, thank you,” he said. The applause lasted longer than that garnered by the First Lady.
Supporters with tear-filled eyes chanted, “Feel.the.Bern! Feel.the.Bern!” But when they finally allowed their hero to talk, the message he delivered was not the one they wanted to hear, despite his obvious effort to let them down gently.
The longest-serving Independent Senator in the history of the nation told his supporters they must work to defeat Donald Trump — and they MUST support Hillary Clinton to do so.
He thanked Michelle Obama for her “incredible service to our country.” And he thanked “the 13 million americans who voted for the ‘political revolution’ who gave us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight!” He also thanked the delegates for “being here” and for “all the work you have done,” telling them he looked forward to their votes in the roll call on Tuesday.
After thanking his family, friends and others who have seen him through his entire political career, Sanders said, “I understand that many people here and around the country are disappointed … I think it’s fair to stay that no one is more disappointed than I am.”
The blunt reference to the rigged system that had lost him the primary to Hillary Clinton was unmistakable. But equally clear was the fact that Sanders, a seasoned politician, recognized there was little he could do about it. Knowing when to fold the cards, Sanders clearly now hopes to keep as many people on board as possible, despite the obvious corruption that has been exposed.
“I hope you take enormous pride in the accomplishments we have achieved,” he said. “Together my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues.”
“Election days come and go but the struggle of the people to create a government that represents all of us, and not just the one — that struggle continues… I look forward to being part of that struggle with you.
“This election is not about and has never been about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or any of the other candidates that have sought the presidency,” he declared.
“This election is about and must be about the needs of the American people and the kind of future we create for our children and our grandchildren.”
The Kenyan half-brother of Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama has walked away from his brother’s party.
More to the point, Malik Obama, a Democrat, told The Post from his home in the village of Kogelo that he voting this year for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.\
His “deep disappointment” in his brother’s administration, and the scandal over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers during her tenure as Secretary of State.
“She should have known better, as the custodian of classified information,” the 58-year-old former Democrat said. He expressed exasperation over the decision by FBI Director James Comey not to recommend prosecution over the matter.
Rather, photographed sporting a red hat with white lettering saying “Make American Great Again,” Malik Obama told media he switched allegiance to “the party of Lincoln” instead.
“I like Donald Trump because he speaks from the heart,” he said. “Make America Great Again is a great slogan.
One year almost to the day after the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers, and in blatant violation of UN Resolution 2231, Tehran tried to launch a ballistic missile using North Korean technology, Fox News reported, citing intelligence officials.
The test failed when the missile exploded after liftoff, on July 11 at night, outside Saman, a city west of Isfahan, at a site Iran has used before to conduct ballistic missile tests. This is the latest attempt in the year since the signing of the nuclear deal.
The test rained on President Obama’s parade, who said on Thursday, the actual anniversary of the deal, that “over the last year, the Iran deal has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, avoiding further conflict and making us safer.”
But according to The Hill, the Republicans used the one-year anniversary for several largely symbolic measures to undermine the deal. “We need to look no further than Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing activities to see the disaster that the Iran nuclear agreement has been over the last year,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement.
In UN Resolution 2231, Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
According to Reuters, a confidential report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran’s ballistic missile program is “not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the nuclear deal. The Security Council is due to discuss the Ban Ki-moon report on July 18. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi announced that “Iran will strongly continue its missile program based on its own defense and national security calculations.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who meets regularly with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said this week that “Nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away. There are other real issues, and we will continue and are continuing to focus on those issues.”
Which means the US is content to permit the Iranians to defy the UN and the Western allies in working on long-range missiles, which should be ready to carry nuclear payloads as soon as the temporary limit on Iran’s development of a nuclear device is removed, in 2025. And with its newly thawed billions of dollars, what would stop Iran from buying the device from North Korea, its favorite shopping spot?
In late June, North Korea succeeded in launching its home-grown Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, which flew a distance of 250 miles to the Sea of Japan, this after five earlier failures.
Both houses of Congress are at work to modify funding bills for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as part of an effort to investigate the very legitimacy of the decades-old agency, Michael Wilner reported in the Jerusalem Post Friday. Both the House and the Senate want the State Department to, once and for all, define the term “Palestinian refugee,” and while they’re at it, reveal how many are receiving aid from UNRWA.
UNRWA was established in 1948 to assist the 750,000 Palestinians who had left Israel. Since then UNRWA has been a promoter of the Palestinian cause, funding as many as 5 million “refugees,” the majority of whom never left the homes where they were born in the Gaza Strip, the “West Bank,” eastern Jerusalem, or other Arab countries, to the tune of $1.23 billion annually, $250 million of which is donated by US taxpayers.
Many in Congress have been saying, since about 2012, that the majority of Palestinians are permanently settled, and should not be under the jurisdiction of a refugee agency.
Needless to say, Wilner points out, “such a finding would fundamentally change the narrative of the decades-old conflict.”
The first Palestinian census was completed 15 years ago, and the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) admitted then that the census was, in effect, “a civil intifada” rather than a scientific survey. In 2011 the Bureau attempted to correct that blatant misrepresentation, claiming that 2.6 million Palestinian Arabs inhabit Judea and Samaria.
But Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger challenged those numbers, claiming they overstated the real number of Arabs there by as much as 66%. He explained that the PCBS’s total counts 400,000 Palestinians living overseas, and double-counts 240,000 Jerusalem Arabs. It also undercounted Palestinian emigration.
In 2014, UNRWA came up with the figure of 5 million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and the US responded by providing hundreds of millions of dollars for UNRWA’s health, education, and social service programs.
“UNRWA is sort of becoming an entitlement program of the Middle East, and the desire is to increase transparency on who actually are refugees relevant to that conflict,” a senior Senate aide familiar with the language told Wilner, suggesting the new bill “goes to the heart of the debate over UNRWA funding.”
Republicans in both houses have launched parallel efforts to compel the State Department to go on the record with who qualifies as a “Palestinian refugee,” and the combined version of the law, once passed, will compel the secretary of state to provide “a justification of why it is in the national interest of the United States to provide funds to UNRWA.”
The bill’s language continues: “Such justification shall include an analysis of the current definition of Palestinian refugees that is used by UNRWA, how that definition corresponds with, or differs from, that used by UNHCR, other UN agencies, and the United States Government, and whether such definition furthers the prospects for lasting peace in the region.”
And, naturally, “the committee directs that such report be posted on the publicly available website of the Department of State.”
Finally, it should be noted that there are two distinct definitions of the term “refugee” in international law.
A refugee, according to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, is a person who is outside their country of citizenship because they have well-founded grounds for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to obtain sanctuary from their home country or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country; or in the case of not having a nationality and being outside their country of former habitual residence as a result of such event, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to their country of former habitual residence.
It is rare for a refugee status to extend beyond the lifetime of the original refugee, because normally it is expected that their offspring will have settled someplace else.
Not so regarding Palestinian refugees, according to UNRWA’s definition of the term, which includes the patrilineal descendants of the original “Palestinian refugees,” limited to persons residing in UNRWA’s areas of operation in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.